Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pura Vida in My Backyard

March 2014-Pura vida in my back yard
When we bought our property as raw land 8 years ago it was hilly and overgrown.  Just under 2 acres with no driveway, John was often riding his bulldozer carving  out the sites for our house, pool, walkways, etc.  It was all jungle.  When John finished the pool and deck and the place was fairly livable, he moved on and over time we discovered our private paradise.
We often sat on the terrace looking at the ocean.  Joe would look straight ahead at all the trees and remarked that the trees were like a curtain—there is something back there, he said.  We eventually uncovered a large peaceful scenic view of the valley and the river. 
We always thought our property was not fully usable.  We built where we could on the top flat part and the rest went down the back.  Joe noticed that during the rainy season he could hear sounds of  rushing water down in the unusable gully.  This year we decided to check it out.  We hired  a couple of  local  Ticos to make us a nature trail. 
They used wood we had in the garage and cut a few small trees sparingly and used that wood to shape the trail.  They also built us a bridge and two benches.  Now we wait for the rainy season.  We will have a creek and a couple of places to sit as it streams by.  Pura vida in our back yard

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Expat Living--New Years 2014

Our first New Years here in 2006, Joe and I spent the evening driving around with an English couple looking for "the party".  We found a few gatherings but no real party.    Now every year at this time we prepare for the party season: New Years Eve, the Black Sheep Anniversary party and then St Patrick's Day.  We look for workers, buy beer, hire bands, send out invitations and hope people will come.   For this New Years eve, we will have 2 bands from San Jose, food by Big Tony, and Fireworks at midnight.  This is also the beginning of the high season with blue skies, sunny weather and planeloads of tourists coming down to escape the cold weather. Happy New Year..

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Expat living: Our new deck in Paradise

Here is our new deck.   We had a lap pool and deck built as part of the original construction eight years ago. I my refreshing mid-day swim and then rinsing off under the out door shower in the jungle.  However, the pool has given us some challenges, particularly leaks in pipes cemented into the concrete.  The pipes connect to the pump in the bodega on the lower level and we would know there was a leak when the bodega flooded.  We fixed all this but  but before the pipe problem there was a deck problem.  When we originally built we wanted a red cement deck. We thought it would be easy for the workers to dye the concrete.  But when they mixed the dye with the concrete, it came out pink.  To give us the deep red deck we wanted, the workers mixed the dye with a small amount of water and poured the deep red paste on top of the concrete.  This temporarily gave us the color we wanted.  Unfortunately, when the dye dried, it degenerated into a powder which was blown around by the wind forming a red dust.  By then we had the puppies who ran around in the dust leaving red paw prints everywhere including on our guests' tropical clothes.  The puppies were covered with dust so they looked pink. Sometimes people would sit on the side of the pool and their light color clothes became streaked with red.  This went on for a couple of years and as the dust blew away, the deck went back to pink.  We began painting the deck every year but it easily became streaked with chlorine and dirt from peoples' shoes.  Now!  Finally!  we have tiled the deck.  Joe designed it and we expect it will last for a long time.  Our beautiful lap pool is framed by natural looking tiles along the length of the pub.  Pura vida!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Back to Paradise

Back to Paradise September 2013
We had 15 people up last night for a beer tasting.  Joe joined me in the states and picked up several bottles of  craft beers and he was eager to share.  It was a great evening.  Beer samples and Irish car bombs and the occasional mixed drink or draft beer.  I was well able to bartend. The group who came up were mostly locals—people who own property or people who work here.  Andres, our lawyer friend organized the group.  It is the rainy season here. No tourists. Tourists come when it is sunny with blue skies.  Now it is lush foliage with more shades of green than Ireland, and wispy clouds which come down over  the mountains across the valley.   For those who live here the rainy season is the best..not October when we have floods and landslides..but the other 5 months.  The area is deserted which makes for a pleasant communion with nature and the on and off rain keeps the temperatures in the 80’s, and there is no dust which makes it all seem so clean.
I worked in New Hampshire for 9 weeks when Joe came over.  We did a road trip to upstate NY to see his family stopping by Brattleboro VT to visit with our friend beer legend Ray McNeill.  I was only in Nosara for 10 days before going off to my current assignment in Minnesota.  It sounds hectic and in some ways it is but it bring in the money and the work is interesting.  Since I had been in Minnesota before and felt somewhat acclimated, I was hoping to make some day trips to “the cities”, as they call Minneapolis and Saint Paul, but now that I am here, it is just too cold and I don’t have anyone to hang out with this time.
 Joe is getting on well on his own.  We have discovered Facetime andVsee so we have the video and it is free.  The video is amazing—like being there in person.  
We have more neighbors on the hill now.  I went walking, actually hiking, with Lena, our Swedish neighbor with the spectacular round house with 360 degree view up a ways from us.  We hiked on the finca roads which are like trails and we looked at people’s houses who are away. Besides being an interesting person, she brings us her business skills, helping us organize the collection of money to pay the water bill.  We have one well for the families.  And we all need water.  Down in the project (the tourist area on the beach), they used so much water during the high season that  water had to be rationed.  It was shut off several hours per day by rotation.  We have had some problems up here with leaks and finding the leaks which can be under the concrete.   So paradise has its own set of issues.
Now it is almost November and I am back to paradise in four weeks.  Yay.. My Minnesota job is terrific and I am lucky to have it.  This is the forensic hospital.  I treat patients on two units and I am learning a lot.  And I cant wait to be back to tropical Nosara..with Joe and the dogs and Ainsely and the pub.Pura vida.  Love Joe and Helena

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Costa Rica June 2013

Expat living—June 2013.
Always on vacation here in Costa Rica.  No structure, no working,  Just house stuff, recreational, leisure,  inner life,  the jungle, nature, other people on vacation or just living and workers we hire.   I came back from Minnesota and was sick for a week—stomach bug—I who never gets sick got sick.  I guess the stress of traveling and change lowered my resistance, but just for a week  The worst part was the low energy. 
We have had two parties.  Joe’s birthday and a benefit for the volunteer firefighters.  We had some great music for the benefit.  Our friends, rock group Mumbleriot, played and we also had a 2 person girl-group, ColorNoise, guitar and drums, punk rock I guess, talented and great to talk with.  Having the pub, we get to meet people like this. So cool!
Joe is now on Facebook—finally!!  He got up to 50 friends very quickly, and he has a lot of interests—music, film, history, beer so once he finds the pages, he will get very connected.  We have a nice quiet life together up here.  I think we appreciate our time here since I am away 4-6 months per year.  But when I am here I am here all the time.  I don’t think it is too bad—but Joe does.
We are still hoping to move.  We went to Arenal last week to look at a more economical option.  Two storage units on 1 ½ acres.  The storage units would become the pub and we would have to build…I can’t imagine a better house than this one but we will find one.  And our water and electricity would be less. We would spend less on car repairs. And once we pay off the credit cards, it will be easy street.  We just have to sell here.  The right person who wants to live in Paradise…
I will be off to New Hampshire soon..only two months.  Then later in the year I have another two month gig in Minnesota—the small price of living in Paradise..

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mankato, Minnesota

May 11, 2013  Mankako, Minnesota. 
People are tall here—I am always looking up.  And they have accents.  Long o’s.  like Noooo for no.  There is a  lilt in every conversation.  Joe found me a book called “Talk like a Minnesotan”—I heard it is a classic.  And it has been snowing up till early May.   There have been a few storms 7 inches each time.  And cold.  I am glad I brought my winter parka.  This week we finally have spring weather and it is gorgeous.

I had a friend for my first 4 weeks here.  An APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) from Oregon.  She had been working here since January and she was able to show me around.  We went to the Schnell Brewery in New Ulm and other things German up that way. Mankato is more Scandinavian decent, I think.  Deb and I also went to several restaurants and hung out and it was nice to have a companion.

The job is great.  It is interesting.  A lot of good staff.  And patients who have serious mental illness.  They have also committed crimes, some serious, and have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Except for the crime, it is like the old state institutions .  Most of the people I have met have only committed one crime, either when they were not taking medications, or when they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.   The crime part makes it difficult for people to be allowed back into the community.  I went to a hearing the other day.  There was a three panel judge on a huge video hanging from the ceiling that about 8 of us, including the patient’s  lawyer and the patient had to address.   The patients are mentally ill and dangerous (MI&D)—the D part brings in the legal system.   And there are politics.  Because the patients are at the facility a long time—7 years is the average length of stay-, as a provider, I have plenty of time to research their illness and there is time to try different medications and treatments.  Also, there are  internal medicine physicians, who know the patients and I learn a lot consulting with them.  And pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, even a foot care nurse!  People get very good care.

I have a contract to be back  here in Oct-Nov for another 8 weeks.  Joe may come with me.  We are trying to decide if it would be enough for him to hang out in the hotel —I have a nice 1 bedroom suite—and go to the malls during the day.  I think it would be OK.  After being in the jungle for so long, the first few days of being in a mall are exciting.! We have Barnes+Noble, TJ Maxx, Walmart, CVS and so many other stores competing for our money.  Plus super grocery stores.   It is hard to find someone we trust to stay in our house in Nosara with the dogs when we are both away.  But there is an Oktoberfest in New Ulm, which is near here,  in early October so that may interest him.  We will see.

I  go back to Paradise in next week.  Joe insisted I buy more English pint glasses.  And I have an assortment of sundries.  We can get most things now in Costa Rica and it is not worth paying the overweight baggage charges.  I will be in New Hampshire for July-Aug, back to outpatient.   I am so fortunate that I have been able to move to Costa Rica AND progress in my career.  I am now considered a provider.  

It has been a good experience here.  And I can’t wait to come home to the tropics.  Love Joe and Helena

Friday, March 22, 2013

Expat living March 2013

March 2013
Before we moved down here one of the expats said: “living here is like being in a Shakespeare play.” Lately it has been vivid with ups and downs.   We had an appointment to renew our residencia.  Well we didn’t really have an appointment but I made friends with customer service over the phone and and after several phone calls to try to make an appointment, she told me when to come.  I was relieved to meet her and find we actually had  an appointment.  We hired a taxi to take us because our car is kaput—more about that later.  And the driver was such a slowpoke, we were half hour late for our “appointment.  I called Cindy and she said’ “Don’t worry.”  This is a common refrain here.  Our appt was going fine except that one document had only my name on it, not mine and Joes.  “We’re married. “ I kept saying over and over.  And they brought in more tellers to tell us we had to go back to Nosara to get a document with Joe’s name on it.  After about an hour it was resolved and we began the drive home.. We stopped in a ceramic store to wind down and look at stuff we didn’t need.  The cab driver came in with us (usually they stay in the car) and he also did not lock the cab.  We were looking around and suddenly he says’  “Come on! Ladrones! They took the bolsa”  Joe’s back pack on the floor in the back seat was taken.  We drove down the road for several miles looking for the car while he called the other cab drivers and the police.  We lost an Ipod and a kindle.  Fortunately the bolsa with the passports was untouched.   The good news is that the cab company is took responsibility and replaced the items , but is still feels shitty to be robbed.
I was not able to land a telepsychiatry job but I do have a spot in Minnesota for eight weeks  starting next week. .My ten year old printer strained to print out the 36 pages of credentialing paperwork, I had to fill out and send back.   It is inpatient psych corrections so this will be different for me.  And I have never been to Minnesota and I hear it is cold!!
We had a brush fire. .  It appears someone threw a cigarette into the jungle.   After about two hours, our neighbors and then the volunteer firefighters put it out.  We are vulnerable here without a fire department and it gets very dry.
My quad..fell apart….This could have been a disaster.  I had managed to drive the quad up the hill to Martin and Susan’s place.  Then it would not budge.  Tim came to help me and we noticed one of the back wheels was not turning.  Tim tied the quad to his car and towed it up the hill.  We drove it around a bit and could not figure out the problem.  Then Gustavo arrived to pick up money to fix our car.  He glanced at the quad, shook it briefly, and the rear wheel fell off!!
Tim had already helped me the week earlier in the car.  The car suddenly stopped.  People on the road helped me, I started driving it to the gas station and it kept stopping.  Finally I called Joe who called Tim—the car was in the shop for three weeks. And $2000 worth of work.  We are told that our previous mechanic did a poor job and made it hopefully the car will run a bit longer with all these new engine parts!
My crawl swim stroke now has momentum.  Tim and Wella swim up here regularly and their son is an Olympic gold medal winner in swimming so I thought if I watch them I might learn something.  Aaron, the champion, had told me a couple of things about hand position which I immediately started using but I always felt I moved too slow.  I began to watch Wella and I noticed she rocks her body side to side with each crawl stroke.—the movement coming from the upper body.  She told me  this is a new method—she learned it five years ago.  So now, I swim this way too.  I told her she should start a swim school “Swim Like an Olympian” (she was her son’s first swim teacher).  but she seems to have enough to do—she  and Tim swim two miles per day—usually after a six mile run and she is getting into fashion design.
We had a great Saint Patricks Day party.  No drama, no bad behavior.  Great conversation and rock and roll.  Joe taught the band “Wild Rover”.  People told Joe the Black Sheep Pub is a legend in Costa Rica.
So I guess the rhythm here is muy tranquillo with drama and lots of time and opportunity to do new things. And  never boring.
Back  to the more predictable USA for a work stint.
Love Helena and Joe